IPRs and Competition Law


Dec 9, 2012 (5 years and 4 months ago)


IPRs and Competition Law : A
Case of Compulsory Licensing

of HIV/AIDs Drugs

Dr R Ian McEwin

Visiting Professor of Law

National University of Singapore &


University Bangkok

Director, Global Economics Group, Chicago

Senior Economic & Regulatory Advisor

Rajah &
, Singapore

Wednesday 23 November, 2011


NOTE: Innovation includes:

The development (invention) of ideas, expression


to bring new products,
processes to the market


i.e. the use of new products, processes
and services

Intellectual Property law

property rights (IPRs) establish a property
right over an idea (patent), expression (copyright),
product quality (trademark), design, plant variety etc.

IPRs provide a
negative right
i.e. the right
to exclude
others from using the idea, expression etc for a limited

no obligation to use it or licence it (?)

justification for IPRs are to promote BOTH
dynamic and static efficiency by:

allowing creators to appropriate their ideas, expression etc
and so encourage
research & development by preventing
(i.e. promote
dynamic efficiency)

a legal mechanism for
more efficient exploitation
licensing (i.e. promote
allocative efficiency)

Basic Economics of IP Law

IPRs protect information

Information has
public good characteristics
i.e. information is:

rivalrous (one person's use does not reduce another's

excludable (it may not be possible to prevent others from
using the information)

If information can be easily copied then people will free
ride on
the intellectual activities of others

The ability to free
ride means that the incentives to create the
information and to share it for profit are reduced

Stopping people from using IPRs promotes its creation (a benefit
to society) by limiting the use of information (a cost to society)



Basic Economics of

Intellectual Property Law

Creative activity may still be profitable without IPRs:

it may take time to copy

creators may be able to make it difficult to copy

Codified knowledge
(patents, blueprints, computer code etc) can be
transmitted easily but much knowledge is of a

it is
ambiguous and require experience to apply properly

Depends on what is being protected

books are easy to copy

perhaps more protection needed against piracy than for difficult to copy
patents (but depends on value to society)

Are IPRs Even Really Necessary?

Some economists argue that in concentrated
oligopolies (e.g. 2
5 firms) there are:

strong pressures to innovate

if firms don't innovate they go out of business

firms can rely on secrecy, lags in the ability of competitors
to copy

So no need for IPRs because:

IPRs slow down the rate at which consumers can enjoy benefits
at lower prices

Firms use IPRs strategically (e.g. register many patents around
real patent to trick competitors, or falsely suing for possible



Fundamental IP Contradiction

Economic efficiency includes:

Allocative efficiency (short
term efficiency) which requires that:

new information should be disseminated as quickly as possible
at cost

IPRs should be limited in scope and length of time

Dynamic efficiency

optimal innovation over time

innovation needs incentives

creators need to be rewarded

so broaden scope and length of IPRs

But does more protection means more ideas and
innovation? This is a difficult question because ideas
build on past information

limiting use of past
information can stifle further ideas and innovation

Some Basic Economic Issues

Inconclusive empirical data on the incentive effects of IPRs on

Does placing competition law restrictions on IPR licensing affect

If the scope of an IPR is too great then:


innovator will stifle

if so then the IP
system may inhibit future innovation

The development of complementary IPRs may be stifled

IP law places limits on right to exclude (e.g. others may use
within limits e.g. fair use in copyright, parallel imports of genuine
goods, particular provisions e.g. Copyright Tribunal in Singapore
can consider license fees)

Should competition law start with a presumption that IPRs are
correctly granted? If it is believed that the IP grant is too wide
should competition law prevent its use?


Real Property Rights

Property right

really a
bundle of rights
to stop others from
entering (negative right) and to allow owner to use the
property (positive right)

Definition of real property rights

three main elements

Scope: length, breadth, height (above and below ground)

Time: for how long can you exclude? 99 years or forever?

Use: what you can do with it

build house, dam river etc



Scope of Intellectual Property Rights

IPR Scope


two possible meanings

breadth, depth and/or use

Breadth and depth


broad scope

held by one patentee


narrow scope adjacent products have separate
patents, as do subsequent minor innovations



what you can do with it (e.g. keep on shelf and refuse
to let anyone use it)







Real vs. Intellectual Property Rights

IPR rights usually cover the grant (i.e. the

or the area or in the
previous diagram) and their

Are real and IPRs really the same?

Boundaries of real property rights easy to define

Scope of the grant of an IPR can be difficult to define for patents less so for
copyright. Unlike real property rights an incentive to ‘game’ the IP system
to maximise the grant and so the returns and so make it harder for both

IPRs and

But rights governing what you can do with them are similar i.e. to sell,
licence, lease, divide etc

here competition law should perhaps treat IPRs
the same as real property rights

but for both kinds of property rights,
competition law should take into account not just the allocative benefits
but also consider the impact on future innovation (note: maximising the
value of the IPR to the innovator is not consistent with societal welfare e.g.
where any excessive monopoly power is created which is not necessary for
the innovation, limits future innovation and limits actual output)


So it is useful to distinguish between the anti

Setting of the scope of the IPR (should this be
more carefully done by the IP regulator and left
alone by a competition regulator?) and

Use of the IPR grant itself


In the US

For Many Years:

For most of 20

century US courts, competition regulators
assumed IPRs conferred monopoly power IP licensing generally
considered to be within the scope of the IPR

Courts would grant remedy against infringement where the IP
owner had attempted to extend its scope illegally (anti

called the misuse doctrine

Most misuse cases involved tying or coerced exclusive dealing

tying, in which the use of an IPR is tied to the sale or use of
another product or process

is seen as outside the IPR scope
because it extends market power from one market into another

coerced exclusive dealing (you only take my products and/or IPRs or
you get nothing!) can limit distribution etc

Policy issue

misuse arises because patent etc used anti

should it be addressed by competition or IP law?




Licensing promotes both research and development. Without
licensing new ideas would have to be developed by their creators

who are unlikely to be in the best position to do so

Teece (2000) gives three business objectives that can be achieved
by licensing

efficient commercialization … matching technology with the
complementary assets needed to succeed in market

technology exchange

licensing can reduce infringement

market enhancement

licensing helps to establish new
products or processes and new product standards



In 1980s
Competition Regulators
Reconsidered Licensing

Now licensing was considered competitive because it:

increased the value of patents (others apart from inventors
etc may be better at commercializing)

increased the diffusion of patents


In 1988 Antitrust Division of DOJ

Antitrust Enforcement Guidelines

Accepted that IPRs do not necessarily confer a monopoly in
relevant antitrust markets

Adopted a
rule of reason

approach which balanced the pro
competitive and anti
competitive effects of licensing i.e. no
practices presumptively (per se) bad

Under a

rule of reason


will prices rise and output fall?

will welfare
enhancing competition be stifled?

are there efficiencies that will offset any competitive

US Antitrust Modernization
Commission 2007

IPRs and competition laws “are generally
complementary. Both are designed to promote
innovation that benefits consumer welfare” (p iii)

“In industries in which innovation, intellectual property
and technological change are central features. Just as
in other industries, antitrust enforcers should carefully
consider market dynamics in assessing competitive
effects and should ensure proper attention to
economic and other characteristics of particular
industries.” (p 39)

“In sum, antitrust law has sufficient grounding in
economic learning and flexibility to provide
appropriate analyses of competitive issues in new
economy industries.” (p 42)



Defining Markets for IPRs for
Competition Law Purposes

In order to determine whether a firm has market power or the
practice lessens competition in a market the market must be

Three markets potentially

markets for goods and services that incorporate the IP
(e.g. computer operating systems market)

a technology (licensing) market (e.g. licensing code)

an innovation (research and development) market (e.g.
programming code)

Price Competition the Appropriate
Way of Defining Markets?

Competition law concentrates on price
competition e.g.

In determining the definition of a relevant market the
test normally used is a price
substitution test (the
SSNIP or hypothetical monopolist test)

A dominant firms market power is determined
(mainly) by whether it can price independently of

Whether a merger is likely to substantially lessen
competition depends on an assessment of whether
price is likely to be greater after the merger (i.e. the
substantial lessening of competition test essentially
asks whether price is significantly higher due to less



Licensing and Competition Law

Most licensing relationships are vertical in nature (i.e. a licensor and
licensee operate at different stages of the production chain)

People in vertical relationships do not normally compete with each
other so normally no competition problem (vertical arrangements are
usually done for efficiency reasons

to save costs)

But problems with vertical practices
that may have a horizontal

So in 1995 new DOJ and FTC Guidelines "… antitrust concerns may arise
when a licensing arrangement harms competition among entities that
would have been actual or likely potential competitors in a relevant
market in the absence of the license (entities in a horizontal
relationship)" (p 14)

No general duty to licence

IPRs and Particular Sectors

IPRs differ in their economic importance among

Manufacturing makes considerable use of patents

Copyright protects publishers (films, books,
blueprints, software)

marks protect most goods and services

Maskus (2000) says patent protection is "particularly
critical for capturing returns to basic invention in
pharmaceuticals, agricultural and industrial
chemicals, and biotechnology. These industries have
high R&D costs but face considerable appropriability




Small number of large multinationals carry out almost all
basic research

The American pharmaceutical industry has more foreign
production and distribution facilities per parent enterprise
than any other US manufacturing sector

Patented pharmaceutical products face competition from:

substitute products within therapeutic groups

expired patents

imitations from countries without patent protection

Most research intensive of all sectors




most firms created to develop and sell
a new genetic process or product

Research mainly carried out by small firms

Half the important drugs on market are based on
biotechnological inventions

Learning a biotech. Formula through reverse
engineering is usually straightforward and

making patent protection



Originally designed for print publishing

Now covers: audio and video recording, live
performances, broadcasts, software, video
games, electronic databases, electronic
transmissions over the internet etc

Easy to copy and sell copyrighted material

at a fraction of the price of the


Computer Software

High price of software versus low copying and distribution costs

Copyright covers copying code (e.g. duplicating a disk)

Greater protection in US

patents (with just copyright protection, idea not protected
so other companies could simply re
write code

incentive to innovate then. Can either extend copyright
(structure, sequence and organisation) but goes more to
protecting function than expression

but owners prefer
copyright because protection lasts longer

trade secrets

some argue that US over



Not a monopoly grant (single seller in a market) unless
the relevant market is the same as the patent grant

In competition law
relevant market
for a product includes
all the products that are substitutable to some degree (in
the short
term) i.e. all other products that constrain the
ability to charge for the IPR

Patents rarely give the owner substantial market power

Distinguish economic monopoly (over a product or
service that allows the monopolist to sell at the price she
chooses from a legal monopoly right that allows the
owner to stop others from using the right (but may not be
worth much)




Benefits to holder increase the longer the patent

From society's viewpoint

short length may
discourage R&D while a long patent life may

give excessive rewards to the holder (much more
than needed to engage in the R&D

which will
depend on the particular circumstances) and

block further improvements

Optimal patent length must balance:

the social gain from innovation

the losses from delaying the innovation to rival firms




Breadth is the range of products that are covered
by the patent.

Breadth has both horizontal and vertical


the less specific the patent, the
broader the scope. e.g.

the exclusive right to develop
and market "adjacent' innovations.

Rubiks Cube (a 3x3 puzzle) was found not to infringe an earlier

a 2x2 puzzle



the height of a patent refers to the extent to which
the patent confers protection on additional applications (that
may be relatively trivial)


Cumulative Innovations

Example: Suppose an innovation by firm A, improved by Firm
B. Consumers do not want A' s products only B's.

If height of patent high then A would have right to B's
improvement. So no incentive for B to improve so it may not
come to pass at all

If height of patent short (so B obtains patent on relatively minor
improvement) then A will not make much money but B will. No
incentive for basic research

only incremental. Or perhaps B will
still research but not disclose until totality of R&D is sufficiently
significant (possibility of duplicative research)

Many possibilities depending on the type of research. Need to
ensure disclosure of first innovation to promote further

without reducing incentives of first innovator


Complementary Innovations

To produce a new complex new product (computer chip,
pharmaceuticals) usually requires a number of patented inputs
owned by a number of firms

Each of these patented inputs may be essential

there is a
possibility that the other patent holders can

the production of
the new product.

Heller and Eisenberg (1998,
) call this the 'tragedy of the anti

too many property rights with the right to levy a royalty
can lead to an under
utilisation of the idea (the tragedy of the
commons related to the over
utilisation of a resource because of
lack of property rights)

problem is lack of co
ordination between patent holders. Can be
resolved though:


patent pools (set of patents licensed in a single package)


































































































































IPRs in Developing Countries

Implementing and administering an intellectual property right (IPR) regime
is costly, particularly a patent system where considerable technical
expertise is required.

As the vast majority of patents in developing countries are held by
companies from developed countries, it is understandable why developing
countries are reluctant to enforce IPRs.

Implementation and enforcement only raises prices for local consumers
and may provide negligible incentives for indigenous research.

Obviously, a country will only start to protect local innovation once it has
started to develop its own research and development industry (and so
needs to protect it).

However, governments in developing countries, where IPRs are enforced,
may threaten compulsory licensing as a way of increasing local bargaining
power over the prices paid for imports or the royalties paid to overseas

Compulsory licensing can also help to develop local manufacturing
industry as part of a country’s industrial policy

Differing Views of IPRs

In the debate about access to medicines and the promotion of
generic drug competition through the compulsory licensing of
drug patents there are fundamentally different views about the
policy basis for intellectual property law.

privilege view
that IPRs are not ‘property rights’ as such, but
rather rights granted by government to serve public goals such as
providing incentives for innovation but also subject to limitations in
order to serve other public policy objectives such as health.

The alternative views patents not as a privilege, but rather, as a
privileged property right

or an
right that is stronger than other
property rights. Those who subscribe to the
right view likely
see any possible limitation on patent rights as extremely suspect.
While they recognize that property rights may be limited, they
nonetheless analogize legal exceptions such as compulsory licensing
to stealing.

(Cynthia M Ho, ‘Unveiling Competing Patent Perspectives’ (2009) 46
Houston Law Review 1047, 1056)

NOTE: the economic view sees the grant of IPRs as being
mainly about providing incentives for innovation

Compulsory Licensing

Arnold estimated in the early 1990s that the patent laws of more
than 100 countries provided for compulsory licensing

he found the
most common reasons for compulsory licensing were:


national security

where food or medicines were involved

the inability to work follow
patents (also called ‘dependent patents’) and anti
competitive practices.

Countries are limited in their ability to grant compulsory licenses by the
Paris Convention and the Trade
Related Aspects of Intellectual Property
Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. Under the Paris Convention, compulsory
licenses may be issued where the patentee has abused his or her
exclusive rights. Compulsory licenses must be non
exclusive and non
transferable (except when the IPR is sold).

Article 31 of the TRIPS Agreement (reaffirmed in the Doha Declaration
and Public Health 2001) allows for compulsory licenses for:

national emergencies

situations of extreme urgency

competitive practices

public non
commercial use and

dependent patents (as non
limiting grounds).

Compulsory Licensing

Compulsory licenses are often used to curb anti
competitive practices. In 2002
the US Department of Justice made Microsoft provide uniform licenses to
original equipment manufacturers (OEM), with rates published on the web,
dealing with the protocols that products needed to inter
operate with
Windows. In 2007, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered

computer chip maker) to license patented technology.

had concealed
essential patents it held from an industry
wide standards setting
The FTC imposed a compulsory license by setting a maximum royalty rate.5

In the European Union, competition law has been used to force compulsory
copyright licenses

IMS Health GmbH & Co OHG v NDC Health

& Co KG
[2004] ECR I

Many developing countries have used compulsory licensing for a number of
reasons including national emergencies. Thailand issued compulsory licenses
on drugs to promote greater access to medicines (although some also say to
help Thailand develop a generic drug industry). Faced with compulsory
licensing, the reaction of one multinational pharmaceutical company, Abbott
Laboratories Ltd, was to refuse to continue to register new drugs in Thailand.
This cross
border refusal was challenged in Thailand on competition

Productivity in Thailand

Between 1977 and 2004 increases in total factor productivity
(TFP) added about one per cent to Thailand’s aggregate growth.
The source of this growth was mainly the movement of rural
workers into more productive manufacturing jobs.

By comparison, TFP increases per annum between 1975 and
2000 for other East Asian economies were as follows:

China (3.9 per cent).

Indonesia (0 per cent).

South Korea (1.1 per cent).

Malaysia (0.9 per cent).

Singapore (1.8 per cent).

Taiwan (2.4 per cent).

Thailand (1.4 per cent).

These figures suggest that Thailand has considerable scope for
improving its productivity via better technology and education


Lagging Technological Capacity

In 2008, in a major joint report by the Thai Office of National Economic and Social
Development and the World Bank, it was noted that Thailand’s technological
capacity lagged for four main reasons:

‘The business sector, and in particular the medium and large
sized firms responsible
for most technology development, are unmotivated, unwilling or unable to invest
substantially in R&D whether in
house or through outsourcing … Absorbing technology
from abroad is viewed as the lower cost and preferred route to technology

‘Numerous government programs to encourage R&D and technology developments
have failed to produce the desired effect.’

‘The supply of science and technology workers as a percentage of university graduates
is below that of Thailand’s principle competitors. But perhaps more serious are the
deficiencies in the training of these workers, which reflects the quality of Thailand
secondary education and universities, even the leading ones.

‘Although technology development in Thailand has derived benefits from

this has been in the form of technology that is embodied in equipment. FDI by MNCs
has transferred amazingly little tacit knowledge and disembodied technology through
vertical or horizontal spillovers. Only a handful of companies have set up research
facilities in Thailand and the scope of the research carried out is limited. Thailand has a

of S&T workers in the U.S, in Taiwan (China), Singapore and
Malaysia. However this

has not been a source of local entrepreneurship,
venture capital, angel investors or a vehicle for the technological leadership unlike the
Chinese and Indian diasporas.’

Thailand’s Intellectual Property Laws

In 1979
e Patents Act (BE 2552) was introduced which followed
the World Intellectual Property

(WIPO) model for
developing countries. Initially the Act provided 15 years protection
(after filing) for inventions and seven for product designs. Exclusions
included agricultural machines, pharmaceuticals, animals and
plants. The 1979 Act allowed for compulsory licensing (section 46)
where the patentee did not make the product available to local
producers within three years of the patent grant and the needs of
the Thai economy were not met

unless there were legitimate
reasons. Licensing could not contain conditions, restrictions or
royalties detrimental to the development of industry and

Also, competition law (the Price
Fixing and Anti
Monopoly Act
1979) prohibited these conditions, etc in licenses where consumer
interests might be adversely affected.

Thailand’s Intellectual Property Laws

In 1992, a new Patent Act (No 2 BE 2535) brought Thai patent law into
conformity with TRIPs

patents were now protected for 20 years and
designs for 10 and the exclusions were limited. The Act was further
amended in 1999 to allow for:

national treatment

compulsory licensing

parallel importing and

the extension of patentability to drugs, food, beverages and life forms.


examined patenting in the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) between 1997 and 2007. With the exception of
Singapore, he found a continuing trend in foreign penetration of each
country’s patent system. After examining WIPO statistics for ASEAN
countries he concluded that:

“Overall, the general picture that emerges from the contrast between resident
and non
resident applications and grants in IP rights in ASEAN is an absolute
domination by non
residents. In spite of the relatively high figures for
residents in Thailand and Indonesia with respect to trade and service marks,
the overwhelming sway in IP right by non
residents is very clear. Even in the
case of Thailand and Indonesia, it would not be surprising if the resident
applications were from foreign rights holders doing business in the two

Lack of Patent Examiners in Thailand

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
) in its Special 301 Submission in 2010 pointed to a lack
of patent examiners and the use of compulsory licensing as a
‘cost containment tool’. It said:

“In 2009,

welcomed Thailand’s announcement that it
intended to foster a better environment for intellectual property
industries and increase dialogue between healthcare stakeholders
and the Royal Thai Government. However, to date, there has been
little action taken on these pledges …

does agree that
reforms are needed to improve the Thai patent registration system
which has a backlog of patent applications in the thousands.
Effective reform will start with ensuring there is an adequate number
of patent examiners and that all patent examiners are sufficiently
trained. When these resources are available there can then be
additional reforms to create a predictable and efficient patent
system that stimulates and rewards innovation … Other actions by
the Thai government indicate that the use of compulsory licensing
remains a cost containment tool to be used when negotiating with

member companies.”

Thailand’s Competition Law

Thailand’s first competition law was the Price
Fixing and Anti
Act 1979. The Act had two objectives

consumer protection and price
regulation.14 Next, the Trade Competition Act (BE 2542) was enacted in

notes that the Trade Competition Act was based on
competition laws in South Korea and Taiwan.15 The prime objective is to
protect the competitive process.

Exemptions from the Trade Competition Act were given for the central,
provincial and local governments, state enterprises, farmer’s co
operatives, etc and businesses exempted by Ministerial Regulation.

notes that the exemption for state enterprises was the most
controversial (as they competed against private companies in the
electricity, telecommunications and railways sectors). Export cartels
were not exempted.

The Trade Competition Act includes:

abuse of dominant position (section 25);

competitive mergers (section 26);

horizontal and vertical restraints (section 27);

abuse of dominant position (section 25) and

unfair trade practices (section 29).

Developing Countries and TRIPS

The TRIPS Agreement established minimum standards for intellectual
property protection (based on IPR standards applicable in developed
countries) that had to be complied with by all WTO Members by 1
January 2006.

In exchange for taking on these obligations, developed countries had to
provide better access to developing country exports

particularly for
agricultural products, textiles and clothing and a commitment by
developed countries to stop imposing unilateral trade sanctions for
inadequate IPR protection.


has said that developing countries did not believe they would
get better access to agriculture and textiles without TRIPS; that the
United States would ‘punish’ developing countries that did not protect
US IPRs; that IPRs would attract foreign investment and that IPRs would
help developing countries such as India develop of its own creative

World Bank economist Michael Finger estimates that the cost of TRIPS
compliance would exceed $150 million per country. However,
developing countries accepted TRIPS because they believed it was in
their mutual interest

TRIPS & Compulsory Licensing

TRIPS contains several articles of direct relevance to the compulsory licensing debate.
hey are:

“Art 8.2 … appropriate measures, provided they are consistent with the provisions of this Agreement,
may be needed to prevent the abuse of intellectual property rights by rights holders or the resort to
practices which unreasonably restrain trade or adversely affect the international
transfer of
This is a broad provision, which could include, potentially, all kinds of anti

Article 31 deals specifically with compulsory licensing:

“Art 31 Other Use Without Authorization of the Right Holder

Where the law of a Member allows for other use of the subject matter of a patent without the
authorization of the right holder, including use by the government or third parties authorized by the
government, the following provisions shall be respected:

authorization of such use shall be considered on its individual merits;

such use may only be permitted if, prior to such use, the proposed user has made efforts to
obtain authorization from the right holder on reasonable commercial terms and conditions and
that such efforts have not been successful within a reasonable period of time. This requirement
may be waived by a Member in the case of a national emergency or other circumstances of
extreme urgency or in cases of public non
commercial use …

the scope and duration of such use shall be limited to the purpose for which it was authorized,
and in the case of semi
conductor technology shall only be for public non
commercial use or to
remedy a practice determined after judicial or administrative process to be anticompetitive

any such use shall be authorized predominantly for the supply of the domestic market of the
Member authorizing such use …

Members are not obliged to apply the conditions set forth in subparagraphs (b) and (f) where
such use is permitted to remedy a practice determined after judicial or administrative process to
be anti
competitive. The need to correct anti
competitive practices may be taken into account in
determining the amount of remuneration in such cases …

TRIPS and Pharmaceuticals

At the time TRIPS was signed in 1994, patent
protection for pharmaceuticals was minimal in
developing countries.

So developing countries could make and (more likely)
buy generic drugs (especially from India) at a small
percentage of the price of branded drugs.

TRIPS meant that developing countries had to grant
pharmaceutical patents. The necessary consequence
was less competition from generic drugs.

However, under TRIPS, as article 31 above indicates,
countries can issue compulsory licenses on a number
of grounds including public interest, anti
conduct and for non
commercial government use.

The Doha Round

In 2001, a joint submission by African and South American countries, as well as a
number of Asian countries including India, Indonesia, the Philippines and
Thailand said:

“…a common understanding that confirms the right of governments to ensure access to
medications at affordable prices and to make use of the provisions in the Agreement
whenever the scope or exercise of IPR result to barriers to access to medicines ...
Article 7 is a key provision that defines the objectives of the TRIPS Agreement. It
clearly establishes that the protection and enforcement of intellectual property right
do not exist in a vacuum. They are supposed to benefit society as a whole and do not
aim at the mere protection of private rights.”

In 2001, a Ministerial Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health
was made which said that TRIPS ‘can and should be interpreted and
implemented in a manner supportive of WTO Member’ rights to protect public
health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all’ (


The Declaration then went on to allow countries to establish ‘legal machinery to
manufacture generic substitutes for costly patented medicines under
domestically issued compulsory licenses to obtain imports from countries able
and willing to assist them without interference from the relevant patent holders’



Paragraph 6

Paragraph 6 essentially diluted the requirement that products
be primarily for
the domestic market.


put it:

“In other words, the scheme ultimately negotiated under the
auspices of paragraph 6 of the Doha ministerial Declaration
envisioned a process of back
to back compulsory licenses that would
enable any country needing medicines at lower prices than those
charged by local patentees to seek assistance from other countries
able and willing to produce the drugs for export purposes, without
interference from patentee in either country.”

In 2002, Sykes predicted that:

“The precise impact of the Doha declaration on the policies of
developing nations remains to be seen, but it is likely that the
declaration will embolden them to enact measures that will reduce
the returns to pharmaceutical patent holders, at least with respect to
drugs that are used to treat certain diseases. Such measures will likely
include the award of compulsory licenses for the production of
patented medicines (with minimal royalties payable to the patent
holder) and the allowance of ‘parallel imports’ of medications from
nations where prices are lower.”

Pharmaceuticals and Competition Law

The pharmaceutical industry has come under considerable
competition law scrutiny in the last 10 years, particularly in the
United States and Europe. In July 2009, the European
Commission adopted the Final Report in its competition inquiry
into the pharmaceutical sector, pursuant to article 17 of
Council Regulation (EC) 1/2003.27

The Report noted considerable delays in the entry into the
market of generic drugs and examined the practices used by
pharmaceutical companies to extend the commercial life of
their patented drugs. These included:

the filing of patent ‘clusters’ or ‘thickets’ (e.g. a company files many
patents around the original patent

many well after the initial
patent to create uncertainty for generic competitors as to whether
they can produce a generic without infringing a new patent;

lengthy litigation (to raise the entry costs of new generic
competitors) and patent settlement agreements (which slowed
down the entry of generics).

Pharmaceutical Competition

Pharmaceutical companies compete mainly on the basis of
developing new products rather than on price. This creates particular
challenges for market definition for competition law purposes. As


put it:

“Unlike many consumer products, pharmaceutical products are not
substitutable for each other because of consumer preferences for
design, conveniences, style, prestige, or any other factor short of
efficacy. For instance, although a sport utility vehicle may be
substitutable for a van for certain consumers, and thus may be available
to defeat a price increase, a drug to aid liver function can never be a
substitute for a heart drug. No matter how high prices are raised for a
heart drug, drugs with other therapeutic effects cannot be substituted.
The outcome of the efficacy requirement is that the relevant product
market … will be limited to drugs in an individual therapeutic category

Because pharmaceutical competition is mainly on the basis of
product, not price, and the need to recoup large R&D and regulatory
approval costs, IPRs assume a more important role for competition
law purposes in pharmaceuticals than in most industries

Compulsory Licensing in Developed Countries

Developed countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, the
United Kingdom and the United States have often used compulsory licensing for:

Competition problems.

Government use licenses are a common feature of patent laws in developed countries. For example,
in the United States, under 28 US Code Section 1498, the US Government may use patents or

a third party to use patents for virtually any public purpose. The US Government does not
have to seek a government use license or negotiate with the patent holder. The patent holder is
entitled to ‘reasonable and just compensation’ but cannot seek an injunction.

Compulsory licensing has been particularly important in correcting competition (and
potential) competition problems in mergers between pharmaceutical companies in the
United States.

Pharmaceutical company mergers are examined in three contexts.

First, mergers where the merging companies supply competing products and

Second, where one of the merging companies supplies a product and the other merging party is
researching a competing product.

Third, where the merging firms do not currently compete in a final product market but compete in an
innovation market to develop IPRs (

both are researching to produce products that would compete
but for the merger). Essential Action’s Access to Medicines Project has documented the use of
licensing in the United States to correct competition law problems. For example:

“Novartis (1996): Ciba
Geigy and Santos

two companies based outside of the United States

approval to merge into the company now known as Novartis. Both of the merging companies held
important patents on emerging gene therapies. As a condition of merger approval, the merged
enterprise was required to license gene technologies to Rhone Poulenc, on a worldwide basis. It was
also required to issue a non
exclusive worldwide license to an exceedingly broad
based patented
invention, the Anderson patent, which covers the entire category of gene therapy treatment involving
cell modification that takes place outside the body. Royalty rates ranged from 1 to 3 percent.”

Compulsory Licensing Across Borders

Given the widespread use of compulsory licensing, it is worthwhile
asking the question: does compulsory licensing of pharmaceuticals
across borders actually reduce incentives to innovate? The answer to this
depends, partially, on whether a particular health issue or disease is
global or limited to a limited number of countries (and whether the
disease is in the developed or undeveloped world).

The economic incentives to find a drug against AIDS (a global disease)
will come mainly from the richer developed countries

not from
developing countries with limited markets and limited ability to pay.
Diseases limited to poorer developing countries will not provide much in
the way of economic incentives for the major pharmaceutical companies.


examined the relationship between compulsory licensing and
innovation. She found that the degree to which a firm can predict
compulsory licensing (‘predictability’) and the relative importance of the
market (‘importance’) are significant factors. She finds that ‘only those
drug licenses issued predictably in significant markets are likely to harm

Do Developing Countries Benefit from TRIPS?

Scherer concluded that developing country losses from the transfer of monopoly rents to
developed countries as the result of better patent protection are likely to be considerably
greater than the benefits they receive from any new drugs.

Sykes argues, first, that even if Scherer is right, when the impact on developing countries
is taken in isolation, the ‘odds that such patents will nevertheless increase global welfare
appear particularly favorable in this sector’ and, second, that as the incidence of disease
is not uniform around the globe … a high percentage of the individuals infected by HIV
are located in developing countries. And as the Doha declaration itself acknowledges,
diseases such as malaria and drug resistant tuberculosis are endemic in developing
nations … it follows that economic incentive to do research on such diseases will critically
depend on the ability of pharmaceutical companies to earn rents on sales in the
developing world.

Finger is skeptical that developing countries will benefit from TRIPS. As he puts it:

“Its coverage of the development dimension is thus limited to the development dimension of the
related aspects of intellectual property. This leaves out a lot of people. In Senegal, for example,
of some 30,000 musicians who complain about counterfeit reproductions and radio stations who play
their music without paying royalties, less than 10 enjoy international sales. For the other 29,990,
intellectual property rights is not trade
related, it is strictly a domestic issue. TRIPS provides no basis
for the 29,990 to petition for better enforcement of copyright on their behalf. Knowledge has an
important role in development, and intellectual property rights have a role in turning knowledge into
a commercial asset, in helping poor people to earn more from knowledge. Development institutions
should lead here, trade negotiations cannot.”

Compulsory Licensing in Thailand

Section 51 of Thailand’s Patent Act provides for implementing
compulsory licenses for public non
commercial government
use. The Thai Ministry of Health and The National Health
Security Office describes section 51 as follows:

“2.1 In order to carry out any service for public consumption or
which is of vital importance to the defense of the country or
for the preservation or realization of natural resources or the
environment or to prevent or relieve a severe shortage of food,
drugs or other consumption items or for any other public
service, any ministry, bureau and department of government
may, by themselves or through others, exercise any right under
Section 36 by paying a royalty to the patentee without the
requirement for prior negotiation on the permission, the
royalty fees or the term of patent use.”

Compulsory Licenses for AIDS Drugs

Between November 2006 and January 2007, Thailand issued compulsory
licenses on
public use grounds for Merck’s anti

), Abbott Laboratories’ anti

), and
Aventis’ heart disease drug

). The licenses allowed the Government Pharmaceutical
Organization (GPO) to import or manufacture cheaper generic versions
of these drugs for use in the public health system and thereby increase
competition (and through lower prices

improved patient access)

The Thai Ministry of Health said that TRIPS article 31(b) permits
governments to use a patent
without prior negotiations on royalties or
term. High prices were used as the main reason for the compulsory

The Thai Ministry of Public Health and the National Health Security
Office noted:

The only reason for the implementation of the Government Use of Patents
is to allow universal access to essential medicines by all the beneficiaries of
the National Health Security System, which are all publicly financed
schemes. This is the goal of the previous as well the new Thai Constitution
of 2005, and the National Health Security Act of 2002.

Abbott’s Refusal to Supply


and Fowler argue that industrial policy was an important reason for the
decision. In other words, they argue that the Thai Government wanted to develop a
generic drug industry. As they put it:

… there are reasons to question the government’s claim that the compulsory licenses
are motivated by the need to safeguard public health. Thai officials point to high
prices as the impetus behind the licensing decision. However, in 2002 Auditor


issued a report saying the GPO sold about 60% of its
medical products to government agencies at above market prices.

In some cases, products were marked up by 1,000 percent … While the compulsory
license does not appear to be motivated by finding a reliable supply, neither does
price seem to be the primary objective, since cheaper drugs are available through
other channels. If price and supply security are not motivating the

then other potential motives deserve scrutiny. It is worth noting that that the
Government Pharmaceutical Organization is not run as a nonprofit entity, but rather
as an increasingly profitable enterprise … Thai government officials would like to see
the GPO compete with India’s generic industry and become a ‘regional hub for the
manufacture and export of copy medicines’. India is currently the principle supplier
of essential medicines for developing countries, exporting an estimated two
of the drugs it produces. Realistically, industrial policy may be more important than
public health to the compulsory license strategy

Abbott’s Refusal to Supply

Abbott, the patent holder for LPV/r (sold under the brand
), announced it would no longer register new
drugs for sale in Thailand. This included a new version of

that did not need refrigeration (and so was more
suitable for developing tropical countries like Thailand).

Thai activists
complained to the Trade Competition
Commission that Abbott’s refusal to supply infringed
sections 25 and 28 of Thailand’s
Trade Competition Act.

In April 2007, the US Trade Representative placed Thailand
on its 301 Priority Watch List, citing ‘further indications of
a weakening of respect for patents, as the Thai
Government announced decisions to issue compulsory
licenses for several patented pharmaceutical

The Trade Competition Commission’s

Decision in Abbott

On 27 December 2007,


, the Director of
the Office of Trade Competition Commission, notified


, the Director of

Foundation, that the Trade
Competition Commission had concluded that the defendant’s
withdrawal of its drug registration application did not violate either
section 25 or section 28 of the Trade Competition Act (BE 2542) for
the following reasons.

‘Market Domination’ required a business operator in the market of
any goods or service to have a market share in the previous year of
over 50 per cent and a sales volume of at least 1 billion baht. However,
Abbott had a turnover less than the specified threshold in 2006. Also,
the drug in dispute was not in the market at that time because the
drug had not yet obtained the necessary approval. So it was decided
that Abbott’s action did not suspend distribution or importation
without justifiable reasons in order to reduce the quantity to that
lower than the market demand. So the Trade Competition Commission
unanimously decided that Abbott did not violate the provision on
market domination under section 25(3)

The Trade Competition Commission’s

Decision in Abbott

With respect to section 28, the Trade Competition
Commission decided that the defendant’s withdrawal of
registration with the Food and Drug Administration did not
constitute an action that restricted any person residing in
the Kingdom from buying purchase goods or services for
personal consumption directly from business operators
outside the Kingdom of Thailand. Apart from the fact that
the registration application concerned a drug safety
procedure specified by the Food and Drug Administration,
it was not apparent that consumers had ever placed an
order for the drug directly to the parent company in the
United States as these medications are normally prescribed
by a doctor in hospital.

So, the Trade Competition Commission unanimously
decided that Abbott’s action did not
violate section 28.


In Thailand, government compulsory licensing of intellectual property on public health grounds has
been used to promote generic drug competition in order to reduce the price of certain drugs to the
Thai public health insurance schemes. Some have argued, also, that compulsory licensing has been
used to develop a Thai generic drug industry. As there is limited R&D in pharmaceuticals in Thailand,
the decision would not lead to a decision to pull current R&D out of Thailand. However, the decision
could have an impact on future R&D decisions by multinationals. On the other hand, the threat of
compulsory licensing may make multinational companies more likely to invest in R&D in countries
making the threat.

Whether Thailand’s use of compulsory licensing did in fact chill current or future innovation in
Thailand in other industries is undecided. However, given Thailand’s poor record on
innovation, it
seems unlikely.

Competition law sometimes used compulsory licensing to correct domestic abuses of IPRs, including
refusals to deal. The issue is really about what is meant by ‘abuse’. Is charging high prices an abuse?
The jurisprudence in competition law in developed countries focuses on whether the alleged abusive
conduct affects competition by driving out efficient competitors, preventing their entry or dictating
the terms of competition. Compulsory licensing was used in Thailand on public health grounds to
lower the prices of certain drugs

which is not an ‘abuse’ under current developed
competition law standards, but could be potentially in some countries, including the European

In Thailand competition law was used, unsuccessfully, to try to remedy a refusal to register new
drugs resulting from Thailand’s decision to compulsory license certain drugs. While not unusual in
domestic competition law jurisprudence, this was a novel use of competition law as it was a refusal
across country boundaries. The use reflects the fact that national interest is often paramount in
cases involving the intersection of intellectual property law and competition law across countries.


The end